Helping to support efficient and sustainable modern farmers and feeding the world in a ‘smarter way’ are complimentary business and social impact for the team at InvertiGro.
The Sydney-based company – named as a finalist in the 2022 InnovationAus Awards for Excellence in the Food and Agritech category – designs and builds Indoor Vertical Farming solutions as leading Australian AgTech innovator, thereby enabling sustainable and profitable urban agriculture.
It’s a big idea that started from a simple plan to start a farm and become farmers ten years ago, according to co-chief executive officer Paul Millett.
“Initially we wanted to build a farm, and become farmers doing this indoor farming thing, which was pretty new back then,” he said.
“Our journey started with a bunch of like-minded folks with different skills from across the planet who wanted to build a farm in Singapore. Food security was a big issue there and we could see it was the future.
Despite its best good intentions, the team soon realised it was years ahead of its time and became frustrated by the lack of available technology.
“The technology just didn’t exist, so we started to build our own,” Mr Millett said.
Fast forward to today and InvertiGro designs, develops, builds, delivers and supports innovative and fully integrated Indoor Vertical Farming solutions.
The solutions, according to Mr Millett, are quicker and more affordable to set up, simpler, more sustainable and cost-effective to operate, and delivers greater yields, higher margins and more crop flexibility than other in-market alternatives.
The technology enables businesses – wherever they sit in the food supply chain (from on-farm to in-store) or across the planet – to become efficient modern farmers.
“As a startup, we do this via a mix of deep engineering and product design capabilities, combined with agronomy and horticultural expertise, leading edge technology architects and developers aligned around a lofty but pragmatic purpose to ‘feed the world the smarter way.’”
The product, technology and service offering includes patent-protected hardware, a bespoke set of smart farm management software, and a range of support services that enable customers to rapidly and affordably become farmers, anywhere across the globe.
It’s an exciting time to foster innovation in the market, according to Mr Millett, who said the company is addressing some major challenges faced by the farming community.
Traditionally, there are two options for vertical farms. The first is for small-scale container farms, where commercial viability is limited by inefficiencies of scale and physical process-flow constraints.
The second is medium to large-scale racking or vertical column-style farms that are generally inflexible – in terms of crops and scale – and require significant upfront capital expenditure.
Larger-scale farms often incorporate bespoke automation, adding further cost of set-up and operation.
“In contrast, InvertiGro’s end-to-end solution is quicker and more affordable to set up and scale; simpler, more sustainable and cost effective to operate; and more productive, with greater crop flexibility to maximise revenues.”
‘Showcase farm’ on display
Currently, the company is taking its product to market in a “creative way” by building various prototypes, then proof of concept ‘beta products’, tested in market, ahead of its current minimum viable product (MVP) showcase farm at Rosebery in Sydney.
“This showcase farm has successfully run multiple customer pilot projects as a demonstration of what’s possible with InvertiGro technology and a reimagined fresh produce supply model.”
Additionally, the company is building capabilities to transition from a primary focus on product and solution development towards becoming an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), global distributor and service provider.
In a bid to ensure it has the manufacturing capabilities and capacity to meet the rapidly increasing global demand for InvertiGro’s product, the company has appointed a contract manufacturing partner in Singapore.
“We’re also in the process of identifying and contracting with distribution partners in key overseas markets. These distribution partners will enable us to export overseas with leading Australian AgTech far faster than we could achieve organically while also ensuring our customers are cared for and annuity revenues build,” Mr Millett said.
InvertiGro is eying multiple geographies and has begun paid virtual pilot projects for overseas-based customers ahead of international farm deployments to follow in early 2023.
The current international pipeline includes potential customers in Canada and North America, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Austria, Italy, Iceland, Sweden and Singapore.
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